Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, Lewisburg
Mt. Tabor Baptist Church is a historic African American congregation who worship in a building that predates the Civil War. The original congregation was predominantly white and dates back to the oldest Baptist congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains. In the antebellum period, this building was home to the Lewisburg Baptist Church, which was established shortly after the American Revolution. This church structure was the second for the congregation and was utilized as a hospital and barracks by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The building was damaged during the war. In response, most of the white members joined other congregations while African Americans who had once worshiped alongside their masters in this church decided to repair the structure and start their own congregation. After the Civil War, the name was changed to Mt. Tabor Baptist Church.
Backstory and Context
The congregation of the Mount Tabor Baptist Church traces its roots back to the 1780 and is one of the oldest Baptist Congregations in what is now southern West Virginia. In about 1777, John Alderson, Jr., whose father was the pastor of Lynville Creek Baptist Church in Rockingham County, Virginia, moved westward and settled on the banks of the Greenbrier River. The settlement that would follow took his name and the town of Alderson, West Virginia was born. During the years that followed, Mr. Alderson set about establishing the Greenbrier Baptist Church. From this congregation came several other churches, including the congregation that was established in Lewisburg.
In 1832, the Lewisburg congregation began construction of a new brick church. At this time, the congregation numbered only about 30 members and was ministered to by John Spotts, an instructor at the nearby Lewisburg Academy. For the years preceding the Civil War, the Church was known as Lewisburg Baptist Church and several different pastors ministered to the congregation.
Lewisburg Baptist Church was used as a Confederate hospital and barracks during the Civil War. After the Civil War, the black members of the congregation remained while the white members joined other churches in the area. The black members of the congregation repaired the damage to the building and organized Mt. Tabor Baptist Church. “For the next fifteen years, the black congregation worshiped peacefully in the same building where they had worshiped segregated from white owners, when they were slaves.”1
In 1884, William Foglesong, the only remaining trustee of Lewisburg Baptist, attempted to sue Mt. Tabor and use the funds to build a new Baptist church in Ronceverte; however, the Greenbrier County Circuit Court ruled that Mt. Tabor rightfully owned the church. The church was rebuilt in 1900 and electricity and running water were installed after 1903. Along with these modern renovations were pews from the Old Stone Presbyterian Church, a wooden walkway that spanned the block, a new church bell and a baptism pool. In 1976, Mt. Tabor Baptist Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1. Browning, Joan C.. BLACK HISTORIC SITES IN LEWISBURG, WEST VIRGINIA. 2002.
African-American Heritage Trail of WV. West Virginia Division of Tourism. www.callwva.com.